Sally Potter was 13 years old when the Cuban Missile Crisis was going on in 1962. Apparently it made a deep impression on the teenager growing up in England.
Fifty years later, she used as a backdrop of her new film the threat of a nuclear war between the US and USSR through the eyes of two BFFs, the title characters of Ginger & Rosa, which played the New York Film Festival earlier this week.
Ginger (Elle Fanning) is the more politically committed, innocent and sensitive of the two friends, while Rosa (Alice Englert) is a bit more streetwise and sexually curious, wasting no time to flirt with her best friend's handsome narcissist of a father Roland (Allesandro Nivola). Rosa's mom Anoushka is single. At the beginning of the film, both girls are rebellious, bent on not making the same mistakes as their mothers.
Ginger feels sorry for her mother Natalie (Mad Men's Christina Hendricks), and idolizes Roland, even making excuses for his philandering ways. It's only after Ginger comes to the realisation that her best friend is carrying on with her father can she empathize fully with her mom.
Far more effective, An Education a few years ago tackled similar territory of a young woman in pre-Beatlemania England yearning to grow up too soon. Ginger and Rosa's parents are bohemians who play jazz on their record player and stay up late, quite a contrast to the squares who played Jenny's (Carey Mulligan) middle-class parents.
Seen through the eyes of Ginger, Potter's film focuses on what effect an unhappy marriage can have on offspring, amid a political posturing by the superpowers.
Although made with British money (bfi, BBC), the cast is overwhelmingly American (Fanning, Hendricks, Nivola all showing off British accents), also including Annette Bening and Oliver Platt in supporting roles, both playing Americans living in Britain. Potter explained during a press conference that an extensive search was underway in Britain for the leads (looking at 2,000 girls on Facebook) and seeing in person 200 of them. Potter said it made no difference to her what passport the actors carried. Instead, all she was interested in was whether they embodied the roles.
Ginger & Rosa is slated for a general cinema release in early 2013, and Oscar qualifying screenings before then.